On just about any day of the year, there are likely more than 2,000 pregnant women in this country relaxing in their beds at their healthcare provider’s request. That’s because 20% of the 4 million-plus pregnancies that progress to birth each year involve some sort of activity restriction. Sounds idyllic but it’s not.

Once you’ve had a baby, you dream of the day when you can stay in bed to read a great book, savor private time or just catch some extra zzz’s. But when you’re pregnant and on bedrest for medical reasons, it’s just not the same.

Also read: Finding the best way to labor

Reasons for bedrest

Your healthcare provider may ask you to restrict your activities in pregnancy for any number of reasons, including:

    • High blood pressure in pregnancy (preeclampsia)
    • Signs of preterm labor or birth, such as a prematurely opening cervix
    • Vaginal bleeding

If you’ve done bedrest before, you know it’s hard on your body. Research shows it can affect your muscle functioning, trigger fatigue and moodiness, cause constipation and muscle or joint pain.

Surviving bedrest

It’s important to eat a well-balanced diet, and you might find it more comfortable to eat smaller meals and snacks spaced throughout the day rather than large meals. Avoid the temptation to eat out of boredom and stay on track with recommended pregnancy weight gain. Healthy protein snacks, fresh fruit, grains and plenty of water can help with constipation.

Ask about any exercises that might be allowed. Some leg exercises can help to lessen the risk of blood clots that are more likely during pregnancy.

Get yourself on a daily schedule and stick with it—it will help the time pass. Plan time for movies or reading, chatting on your phone and visits with friends. Your body is expanding, why not your mind? Take advantage of this found time to read classics or explore books about a favorite hobby or parenting.

Attend to your spiritual needs—inspirational readings, meditation, and prayer can be helpful. In passing the time, realize the Internet can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s easy to get preoccupied with endless surfing but be mindful of fatigue, eye and neck strain that can occur with too much laptop time. E-mail, Skype and social networking used in reasonable amounts are great ways to stay in touch, pass the time and to share your progress with others.

Norman Vincent Peale once said, “Don’t take tomorrow to bed with you.” Take one day at a time, focus on the present, and give yourself credit for all you are doing for you and your baby!

Defining bedrest

Not every complicated pregnancy is the same, and your care provider may restrict your activities in different ways than another woman’s plan for bedrest. Ask:

    • Am I allowed any activity out of bed? If so, how much and what type?
    • Can I get up to use the bathroom? Shower? Cook?
    • Will working from bed with my cell phone and laptop affect my pregnancy?
    • Can I have any activity while in bed? Stretching? Sex?



Carolyn J. Lee, PhD, CNE, RN, is a nurse expert adviser to Healthy Mom&Baby.

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